At this moment of national reckoning, with cities across the country grappling with the state of racial injustice in their communities, it is important to have a solid base of comparative and historical data to guide actions and policies. This study aims to provide that comparative base, examining how Black communities in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas fare on measures such as residential segregation; income, poverty, and intergenerational economic mobility; employment and earnings; the racial composition of private-sector economic decision-makers; mass incarceration; educational attainment; school segregation; and health care outcomes. The charts and tables permit readers from metropolitan areas across the country to examine how the status of their region’s Black community compares to the nation’s other large metropolitan areas on all of these indicators. Where is Black household income the highest? What metro area has the lowest Black male or female employment rate? Which metro area posts the highest Black incarceration rate? Where is racial segregation in schooling the most intense? All these questions –and many more—are answered in this study.
Our particular emphasis is on Milwaukee, which we argue represents the archetype of modern-day metropolitan racial apartheid and inequality. And our findings are devastating: on virtually all key measures of Black community well-being, Milwaukee ranks at or near the bottom when ranked against other large metropolitan areas. Moreover, when we examine historical trends in some key areas, the results are equally grim: Black Milwaukee is generally worse off today than it was 40 or 50 years ago. This study documents how poorly Black communities across the nation’s largest metro areas were faring – even before the COVID-19 economic collapse. But no metropolitan area ranks as consistently poorly, across the board, on indicators of Black community well-being as does Milwaukee.